Women’s Ice Hockey Comes Up Short Against Williams in NESCAC Championship

By BRIANNA LIPP

MICHAEL BORENSTEIN
Senior captain Jenna Marotta brings fire to the ice rink with her goal in the final 37 seconds in the NESCAC quarterfinals against Connecticut College.

The Middlebury women’s hockey team wrapped up their year this weekend, placing second in the NESCAC tournament and missing out on an NCAA tournament bid after an excellent season. 

In the semifinals, the 10th-ranked Panthers beat out Hamilton to go to their fifth title game in a row. After a scoreless first period, sophomore Shayla Coates got Middlebury on the board with a redirected shot from senior captain Jenna Marotta for her first collegiate goal. Just over halfway through the period, junior Sidney Portner sent another redirection past the Hamilton goaltender on the powerplay to double the lead. In the third period, first year Jenna Letterie received a breakaway pass from sophomore Madie Leidt and lifted the puck into the net for a short-handed goal. Less than a minute later, Hamilton’s Nancy Loh scored on the powerplay, bringing the score to 3-1. The semifinal win sent Middlebury to seek their fourth consecutive NESCAC crown against first-seeded Williams, who had won the season’s previous two contests 2-1.

The championship game started off with even play in the first period. Middlebury got on the board first as Letterie won an offensive zone faceoff and found Leidt, who fired a shot from the top of the circle past Williams’ goalie Chloe Heiting with just over three minutes remaining. Two minutes later, Williams retaliated with a shot from Brynn Puppe that slipped through traffic and past junior goaltender Lin Han. In the second period, Williams took their first lead of the game with a power play goal just over three minutes in. Halfway through the period, Middlebury took advantage of a 4-on-3 opportunity to even the score. Junior Anna Zumwinkle’s shot hit bodies in front of the net before slipping past Heiting. In the dying minutes of the period, Han came up with a big save on a one-on-one breakaway opportunity for the Ephs, keeping the score 2-2 to start the third period. 

Williams broke the tie nine minutes in as Meghan Halloran one-timed a shot inside the post after a cross-ice pass. Head coach Bill Mandigo pulled Han for the extra skater and, with a minute left, Middlebury once again enacted some late-game heroics and appeared to score a game-tying goal. Marotta’s shot from the right point appeared to have crossed the goal line after bouncing around in front of Williams’ net. However, after a lengthy meeting, the officials waved off the goal, cutting off Middlebury’s last chance for overtime by citing the use of a high stick. Williams won its second NESCAC title in program history (previously in 2014) and will go on to the NCAA tournament.

The Panthers finished an excellent season with a record of 16-8-3. Marotta and Leidt were named First-Team All-NESCAC selections – Marotta’s second straight and Leidt’s first after being named Rookie of the Year last season. Though the Panthers will lose a valuable group of four seniors in Marotta, alternate captain Rachael St. Clair, Katherine Jackson and Katarina Shuchuk, a strong group of underclassmen look to continue Middlebury’s legacy of success.

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